'Anonymous' hacker attack blocks petrol stations across Iran

The attack’s modus operandi is similar to the one that disrupted Iran’s railway network last July. Motorists trying to buy petrol with their government-issued subsidy cards got instead a "cyberattack 64411" message. The latter refers to the hotline associated with the office of Supreme Leader Khamenei. The images of long queues at stations were seen across the country.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iran’s petrol stations were hit by a cyberattack that targeted people trying to buy fuel using government-issued subsidy cards.

Iran’s state TV broadcast images of long lines of cars waiting (in vain) to fill up, both in the capital and the largest cities; when trying to buy, users received a message that said “cyberattack 64411”. A similar attack occurred in July against the railway network.

Government officials admitted the cyberattack after photos and videos of the queues at gas stations began to circulate in the country, eventually broadcast on TV.

Oil Ministry officials were holding an emergency meeting to solve the technical problem.

The semi-official ISNA news agency also reported that people trying to buy fuel with the government card saw the “cyber​​attack 64411” message. The number is that of a hotline run through the office of Iran’s supreme guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The fuel emergency triggered by the cyber-attack comes at a time when Iran’s economy is reeling, hard hit by US sanctions over the country’s nuclear programme and by the crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a situation of extreme instability, most Iranians rely on subsidies for refuelling cars. The still unclaimed attack risks exacerbating hardships and fuelling an already climate of pervasive discontent.

Some satellite Farsi channels broadcast videos by some motorists in Isfahan showing electronic billboards that said: “Khamenei! Where is our petrol?” and ““Free gas in Jamaran gas station,” a reference to the home of the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

The same number, 64411, appeared in an attack against the railway network in July. At the time, Israeli cyber security firm Check Point blamed it on a group of hackers called Indra, the name of the Hindu god of war. The same group is said to have carried out attacks in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad and his regime.

In Iran, the crisis triggered by high fuel prices led to major street protests in November 2019 against the government of then President Hassan Rouhani and the supreme leader, which were violently put down by the authorities and the police.

According to some international NGOs, the security forces deliberately opened fire on the crowd, also using machine guns, with the intent of hitting and killing.